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Rastafarian Minister Says Selling Pot Is His Divine Right

By McCarton Ackerman 05/15/13

Robert Simmons rejects a plea deal for running a pot-delivery business from his church.

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A San Francisco pot enthusiast is protesting his possible eight-year prison sentence for felony intent to sell marijuana, declaring that he is a Rastafarian minister who uses the drug as a "core tenet" of his religion. Robert Simmons, who became ordained as a Rastafarian minister online, refused to accept a plea deal for the charges that would have seen him spend just 60 days behind bars, claiming he doesn't need a doctor's recommendation to possess marijuana and should be allowed to sell weed due to his religious beliefs. “I don’t think I should have to register as a drug offender for charges that relate to my religion,” said Simmons. Prosecutors said that Simmons, who was on parole at the time, was found in August 2011 with 161 grams of pot, a digital scale, 45 plastic bags and $965 in cash. He had a medical marijuana card and was operating a heavily advertised, but unsanctioned weed delivery service. He unsuccessfully tried the First Amendment argument after a 2007 pot bust and was sentenced to prison due to a probation violation. The trial for his most recent charges is set for next month, but the minister is still trying to run his Yelp-advertised medical marijuana delivery business, which he runs "as a subsidiary of my church." Simmons said he has not reported his earnings to the Internal Revenue Service due to the federal tax exemption for religious organizations, but claims the business is a losing venture anyways. “A lot of the time I smoke all of my profit,” he said. If he's able to avoid prison time in the trial, Simmons plans to run for Governor of California.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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